The Comforting Power of Nostalgia

Psychologist Christian Jarrett has written a nice piece on recent nostalgia research at the BPS Research Digest. From the piece:

Over recent years a body of research has accumulated showing the psychological benefits of nostalgia. For example, reminiscing about the past can combat loneliness and off-set the discomfort of thinking about death. Now a team led by Xinyue Zhou has shown that nostalgia brings physical comforts too, making us feel warmer and increasing our tolerance to cold.

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Based on their findings, Zhou and her colleagues suggested that nostalgia serves a homeostatic function, allowing the mind to return to previously enjoyed states, including states of bodily comfort. Anecdotally, Zhou's team said this fits with reports from concentration camp survivors, that they coped with starvation by recalling delicious meals from the past. This homeostatic account is also complemented by neuroimaging evidence showing that the same brain region - the anterior insular cortex - is involved in representing the physiological condition of the body and in emotional awareness.

Read the entire piece at the BPS Research Digest.

Posted on May 10, 2012 .